Christoph Sander
Technische Universität Berlin
In his short treatise De divinatione per somnum (463b12-15), Aristotle claims that dreams, though not sent by a god, are nonetheless “demonic” because “nature is demonic.” This statement has puzzled Aristotle’s commentators since the Middle Ages, being interpreted in a variety of ways even today. The present article traces interpretations of the passage from the twelfth century, when the work was translated into Latin for the first time, until the seventeenth century, when Aristotle’s works were re-translated by the humanists. The aim of the study is to reconstruct how scholars over the course of 500 years dealt with the meaning of the expression “demonic.” The article takes into account not only commentaries on Aristotle, but also several translations of Aristotle’s work, different manuscripts of the work, and hand-written glosses in incunabula. In this way — taking a longue-durée-perspective — the study aims to reveal hermeneutical currents in dealing with Aristotle’s pagan and naturalist theory of dreams within a Christian context which presupposed God as a possible cause of dreams.
Keywords Aristotle  demon  translation  commentary  dreams  marginalia
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